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" Seek the truth and run from

those who claim to have found it "

after André Gide

The Risks of the Magical Path

January 26th, 2009

I’ve just written this for The Book of English Magic. Ali recently commented two posts back on the post about the ‘9 Dangers of the Golden Dawn’. Blogging provides a wonderful way of exchanging ideas and honing understanding, so if you have any comments do let me know!

Magic has always been considered dangerous, and even today most people are probably torn between a fascination with magic and yet an almost instinctive fear of it. Much of this fear comes from the fact that magic deals with ‘hidden forces’ and we are programmed to be fearful of the unknown. But are there any risks involved in the practice of magic?
Some people are so cautious by nature they adopt a policy of going nowhere near the subject. Others take a reckless approach, in the style of the great conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, who said ‘In this life, try everything once, except incest and morris dancing.’ A middle way between these two extremes seems the most sensible.
Any exploration of the unknown carries risks, and when the unknown happens to involve the powers of your own mind, and of feelings and instincts that may be repressed, it is possible to experience discomfort or distress as these hidden parts of yourself begin to surface into awareness. In addition, the magical world-view involves a belief in spirits and the continuity of life after death, and anyone who takes on board such a view must be prepared for the possibility of encountering these beings. On the positive side, practitioners will say that they experience an increased sense of well-being as they come to know themselves and the universe around them in a deeper and more satisfying way. On the negative side, someone trying to follow the path of magic can easily find themselves in a world redolent with superstition and illusion.
For this reason, most magical schools and teachers recommend approaches that develop the student gradually, so that any increased access to the untapped powers of their mind or sensitivity to the psychic realm is balanced by their developing self-knowledge and psychological maturity. This is fine in theory, but in practice the world of magic is still shot through with liberal quantities of delusion, grandiosity, naivety and superstition, which is why it can be so easily derided.
A major step forward in the evolution of magic occurred, however, in the late twentieth century, when a number of psychological approaches were developed, which have come to be known as the ‘Transpersonal’ or ‘Spiritual’ psychologies. With much of their roots in Jung’s fascination with alchemy and mysticism, and his theories of the Collective Unconscious and Archetypes, these psychologies saw the human being as a spiritual entity possessing the untapped powers that magicians had always sought to develop.
Although conservative occultists were distrustful of psychology, perhaps basing their opinions on a knowledge of the limitations of Freudian and Behavioural psychology, a number of magicians began working with these new psychologies, incorporating many of their approaches to the study and teaching of magic.
The great contribution of these psychologies lies in the fact that they work with the ideas of psychoanalysis and other psychotherapies to promote ways of developing the self that can help avoid some of the pitfalls involved in the old-fashioned pursuit of magic. One of the best steps to take in a further exploration of magic is therefore to experience transpersonal psychotherapy, or at least to learn more about it. (See the General Resources Guide in Appendix 5).
The risks involved in the pursuit of magic are – put simply – either getting frightened by unpleasant perceptions or becoming deluded. Unfortunately it is possible to suffer from both symptoms at the same time. The delusion most commonly cited, is known as ego-inflation in psychology, where access to archetypes or inner powers deludes a person into thinking they are vastly more important than they really are. In Golden Dawn work, for example, a magical technique is employed in which the magician identifies with an Egyptian god. From a Jungian point of view, the power from the Collective Unconscious that might flood into the limited vessel of the magician’s ego could result in severe inflation or delusion. Such a risk is exacerbated by the use of grand-sounding titles, which can result in the magician making pronouncements such as: “I, Hymenaeus Alpha, 777 IX° O.T.O., 9=2, Caliph of the Ordo Templi Orientis of Aleister Crowley, Baphomet, 666, do hereby Charter Thelema Lodge as Grand Lodge of O.T.O.”
While such a degree of ego-inflation may be rare, there are so many tantalising ideas, images and techniques in the world of magic, it is easy to fall prey to any one of numerous red herrings that can lure the unwary into a half-lit world reminiscent of that of obsessive conspiracy theorists. As Stephen Fry remarked, quoting Oscar Wilde: ‘“The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.” How I wish mad new agers and the daftly superstitious realised that truth.’
The other risk involves feeling ‘spooked’: feeling as if one is experiencing unwanted visitations from the spirit world or attacked by invisible forces. Dion Fortune believed that she had suffered such an attack, and her 1930 Psychic Self-Defense (Weiser 2001) which she wrote to offer advice on how to protect oneself magically, is still popular, as is Caitlin Matthew’s more up to date treatment of the same theme: The Psychic Protection Handbook (Piatkus 2005). Both books offer practical techniques for repelling the unwanted influences of malevolent spirits and human beings.
The mind is so suggestible, however, and the imagination often so vivid, it can be hard to determine the origin of any particular feeling or symptom, and even those who believe in the need for psychic protection recognise that the possibility of ‘psychic attack’ is extremely remote. However, in times of stress many people find relief and comfort from engaging in a specific act, such as wearing an amulet, repeating an affirmation or conducting a ritual of protection, whether this works its magic by suggestion, through the placebo effect, or in another unseen way.
Up until the nineteenth century, wizards or cunning-folk were often asked to offer magical protection. Before adequate policing and insurance, and when the causes of most ailments remained a mystery, the curses of malevolent witches or the baleful influence of spirits or elves, were often blamed. Rituals and spells were used to repel these unwanted forces, and today many magicians still hold that magical means are necessary to protect us from harm. Others believe that common-sense and discrimination offer us more protection than any number of magical formulae, which can be counter-productive when they encourage fear and superstition. The magician and essayist Lionel Snell writes: ‘Don’t waste time clutching crucifixes when terrorised by psychic phenomena – it’s far more effective to exorcise them with scientific scrutiny.’

The Rosicrucians and the Russian Aristocracy in London

January 25th, 2009

Just before she died, the Order’s Pendragon during Nuinn’s time gave me a set of eleven privately printed books of rituals of A.E.Waite’s Rosicrucian Fellowship. In researching the Rosicrucians for The Book of English Magic, I took these books down from the shelves, blew the dust off them and, not having looked at them for 20 years, re-discovered a list of members inserted in one of them. I’ve just analysed the list: out of a total of 88, 63 were women; of 5 doctors listed all were female; and 3 members of the Russian aristocracy were noted: Count Alex Bobrinskoy, and the Princes Constantine and Andrew Lubanoff-Rostovsky.

And glued into the inside cover of one of the books was a personal bookmark:
R+C bookmark

Sexist Assumptions

January 25th, 2009

Sexist Assumptions, Amazing Women and Tara.

In the last post I described myself as nothing more than ‘a jumbled mess of preconceived ideas’. The other day one of these preconceived ideas popped out again. M and I were discussing the likelihood of there being incarnated extant Masters with the Golden Dawn / RR et AC tradition. I opined that there could be such a Master, but he would keep himself hidden. Naturally M and I both picked up the sexist assumption of the Master being a man.

For more see: The blog 
Magic of the Ordinary

See also:

The Golden Dawn and the RR et AC are wonderful traditions and many thousands of people owe them a great deal for their spiritual and magical fulfilment, including thousands (like many Pagans) who may not even know it. However, they are dangerous and I think it is important to be honest about this, especially as the traditions shows no signs of decreasing in ‘popularity’. While many of the dangers outlined below also apply to other magical paths, some are particularly germane to the Golden Dawn…

At: Magic of the Ordinary

The Magus House

January 25th, 2009

Michael Caine (I think it was) was once asked if he could live his life over again would he changed anything? His answer: I’d change nothing – except I would make sure I never watched the film ‘The Magus’. Based on the novel by John Fowles (which is a good read) everyone who made the film later revealed they didn’t have a clue about what the story was all about – and it showed! Here is a picture from Flickr of the abandoned house that inspired John Fowles in his writing. Magus House Spetses

Perfection and Some News

January 24th, 2009

In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away….

Antoine de St. Exupery, Wind, Sand and Stars

Seasoned readers of this blog may have noticed, in the last few weeks, a certain lack of the great long screeds that used to appear here, the snippets of scandalous gossip, the explorations of nakedness and all that that means, and the profound wisdom of deeply serious posts about spiritual subjects. Instead there have been videos of elephants, the odd quote, and some e-fluff as it’s called. This has been because I’ve been hard at work finishing The Book of English Magic and preparing for a visit to India.

While I’m away I’ve asked some friends to be ‘guest bloggers’ – I hope you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

When will showers of peace rain on this city?

January 22nd, 2009

dahshaton kaa raqs hai galiyon mein aatash kii tarah kab sukuun is shahar par barsegaa baarish kii tarah – Khavar Ejaz

Terror dances on the streets like wildfire

When will showers of peace rain on this city?

The Re-Making of America

January 20th, 2009

What an inspiring speech from Barack Obama!

And how interesting that after the speech there was poetry and mention of the Ancestors in that poetry – important themes in the Druid tradition, with its Bards, and in many other cultures and spiritualities too.

Robert Morgan has said ‘People can’t answer a call that isn’t made’. It seems as if the new President has now made the call. It will be wonderful to think positively of America once again – no more Bush jokes, no more dismay at abuses of power. Let’s hope for the very best!

Please Give Generously

January 20th, 2009

Today is a great day to celebrate – with Obama becoming President. May a new era dawn!

Sadly it means we will have to give up making jokes about Bush and moaning about him. This popped into my mail box today and it seems a good way to say goodbye to a very strange era, in which the script director and casting director seemed to have given up entirely. Or perhaps they couldn’t decide whether the movie they were working on was a comedy or a tragedy. Either way, it’s over now. So please give generously . . .

Please Donate to the GWB Presidential Library

Dear Fellow Constituent:

“The George W. Bush Presidential Library” is now in the planning stages and accepting donations. The Library will include:

1. The Hurricane Katrina Room, which is still under construction.

2. The Alberto Gonzales Room, where you won’t be able to remember anything.

3. The Texas Air National Guard Room, where you don’t even have to show up.

4. The Walter Reed Hospital Room, where they don’t let you in.

5. The Guantanamo Bay Room, where they don’t let you out.

6. The Weapons of Mass Destruction Room, which no one has been able to find.

7. The National Debt Room, which is huge and has no ceiling.

8. The Tax Cut Room, with entry only to the wealthy.

9. The Economy Room, which is in the toilet.

10. The Iraq War Room. (After you complete your first visit, they make you go back for a second, third, fourth, and sometimes fifth visit.)

11. The Dick Cheney Room, in the famous undisclosed location, complete with shooting gallery.

12. The Environmental Conservation Room, still empty.

13. The Supreme Court Gift Shop, where you can buy an election.

14. The Airport Men’s Room, where you can meet some of your favorite Republican Senators.

15. The Decider Room, complete with dart board,  crystal ball, Ouija board, dice, coins, and straws.

Note: The library will feature an electron microscope to help you locate and view the President’s accomplishments.

The library will also include many famous quotes by George W. Bush:

1. ‘The vast majority of our imports come from outside the country.’

2 . ‘If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure.’

3. ‘Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.’

4. ‘No senior citizen should ever have to choose between prescription drugs and medicine.’

5. ‘I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy – but that could change.’

6. ‘One word sums up probably the responsibility of any Governor, and that one word is ‘to be prepared’.’

7. ‘Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things.’

8. ‘I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future.’

9. ‘The future will be better tomorrow.’

10. ‘We’re going to have the best educated American people in the world.’

11. ‘One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures.’ (during an education photo-op)

12. ‘Illegitimacy is something we should talk about in terms of not having it.’

13. ‘We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur.’

14. ‘It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.’

15. ‘I stand by all the misstatements that I’ve made.’…(George W.Bush to Sam Donaldson)



Jack Abramoff, Co-Chair

G.W. Bush Library Board of Directors

Opal Whiteley

January 19th, 2009

Blogs are fantastic things! You comment on something and someone surfing on the other side of the world helps you out with a word of encouragement, a source reference, a new insight. I mentioned the film ‘What a Way to Go’ and the director popped in and said hi on the blog and gave his news. Twice I’ve mentioned that I couldn’t find sources and within 24 hours someone has provided them. The latest example of this ‘increased level of connection’ has been in relation to Opal Whiteley. I discovered her story through reading The Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow: The Mystical Nature Diary of Opal Whiteley. Her story in this book, written by Benjamin Hoff, is tremendously moving, inspiring, and sad too. I quoted Opal in a blog post recently, and now I’m delighted to see that a film is being made about her. The director saw the post and commented on it and told me where to find the trailer.

The movie’s website is here. A wikipedia article on Opal is here. The trailer is here:

God is in the Detail

January 17th, 2009

I have a friend who has just received mistletoe injections to help treat cancer and she has written so clearly and movingly about this I asked if I could share this with you. She kindly agreed and here is what she said, first for our local online magazine ‘Viva Lewes’ and then from her own blog ‘100 Monkeys’:

A friend of mine who is recovering from cancer commented recently that the illness tends to bring on enlightenment. It’s a funny thing to say, but it does stand to reason. Facing the possibility of premature death tends to throw one’s whole life into perspective. ‘Am I ready to die?’ is a question that springs to mind. For a spiritual being, it should be a question we ask ourselves daily anyway. It’s like that conversation I used to have at dinner parties that started: if you had a year to live and had no money or health worries, what would you do? Laurence LeShan poses it in his workbook in Cancer as a Turning Point. He found that even terminally ill cancer patients, when encouraged to find their deep passion and zest for a vocation, often stifled, made remarkable recoveries from cancer, or at least had a more fulfilling end to their life. Personally, I’ve always just tended to do what I wanted to do in life anyway, so there’s not much I regret not doing. But I managed to come up with a short list and plan to add to it over time. MORE OF: laughing, happiness, intimacy, friendship, adventures, food growing, holistic beekeeping, dancing, travel to exotic places (well, that will have to be by freighter). START: reading about Einstein, learning to play the cello. LESS OF: chores. It seems like such a sparse, undemanding list, given the opportunity to have my dreams come true. But it is what it is.
If it is possible to be frog-marched down the road to enlightenment, I suspect it might go something like this. Gratitude: As I wrote last week, whatever time remains appears more intense. Little details seem like tailor-made miracles. Judgement and reactions: So what? Life really might be too short. Even those nasty people who are trashing my planet are, to me now, simply ignorant; let it all go. Bad habits: Stuff that; I want to live my remaining days to the full, not lost in a cloud. Forgiveness: It’s physically much easier to say sorry than to bear a grudge. Living in the moment: More than ever, so much of the busy-ness we call life and where we put our energies seems rather a waste of time. I can’t even work myself up into a lather about the credit crunch; faced with possible death, both the voice of the news and even the voices in my head seem tedious. What remains are the core values that we all live with; love, truth, hope, happiness, which, like the vegan-esque diet I’ve been on, contributes to a rather curious lightness of being. From Viva Lewes

I write from my bed, feverish with the mistletoe injected to help repel the cancer. Mistletoe is the most frequently prescribed therapy in German outpatient cancer clinics; it’s said to strengthen the immune system while minimizing the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Our ancestors laced ale with it during winter orgies – hence the provenance of kissing under the mistletoe. My fever started at Park Attwood, the anthroposophical clinic in Worcestershire, where I retreated for a week and was fed fantastic food and given foot compresses, massages and hot water bottles. I’ll continue with the injections weekly or so for the next couple of years while I recover. Mistletoe is said to support the ‘etheric body’ – or life force during chemotherapy, which starts next week.

In between fevers I spent last weekend here in Lewes with my family and felt as happy as I’ve ever felt in my life. God – and not the devil – is in the details. The slam of the door as the children return home. The toot and parp of Dirk tuning his instruments. The crackle and glow of the fire. The sun moving across the sky and casting its light on the buildings around us. People dropping by, chatting outside in the street, organic carrots fresh out of a nearby field making a rainbow winter salad. It’s been said a million times, that facing death makes us truly value what we have. But why stop at cancer? Life itself is terminal. Why not fall into love with ourselves and melt in to that fierce heat of living, right now and at every moment? From Adrienne’s 100 Monkeys Blog